DoraAn orangutan returns home
A web documentary
by Inga Sieg and Axel Warnstedt
Chapter 1New home
The journey takes a whole day and a whole night.
The truck is carrying very special cargo: a young orangutan. It is traveling from a quarantine station in northwestern Sumatra to Bukit Tigapuluh, which is to become Dora's home.
Bukit Tigapuluh is Indonesian for "30 hills".
The national park is one of Sumatra's largest remaining rainforests.
It has recently become home to orangutans again.
Dora is a five-year-old orphan. Her mother was likely killed by poachers. In her early years, Dora was kept as a pet. Illegally. She was eventually rescued and taken to quarantine. Now Dora is going to be reintroduced to the wild.
Chapter 2Jungle school
But first, Dora must go to school.
The jungle school is located in a clearing
on the edge of the national park.
Here, young apes are taught the skills
they need to survive in the jungle.
The team in the jungle school comprises animal care workers, vets, biologists and conservationists. Most are from Indonesia. They share a love of orangutans.
But before classes can start, the animals have to get used to their novel surroundings from within a cage. Even Dora. She doesn't like it at all.
Bad luck of the draw
Cosseted, beaten and even raped.
In Indonesia and other Asian countries,
thousands of orangutans are at the mercy of humans.
The forest around the camp is the classroom.
Young orangutans normally stay with their mothers for eight years, learning everything they need to know. In the orangutan school, trainers take on the role of maternal teacher.
First day of school
The big day has finally arrived.
It's time to leave the cage and head into the forest.
Dora doesn't like getting her feet wet.
The next class is nest building.
Every night, in order to protect against
parasites and foes, such as snakes,
orangutans make a new nest to sleep in.
But Dora prefers hers to be ready-made.
The rain is coming down in sheets.
Classes are cancelled for the day.
Back at the station, the next ape meal is being prepared: papaya wrapped in banana leaves.
The animals need to learn to work for their fruit.
Flowers and leaves
Termites and other insects
Time to play
But playing and cuddling are best of all.
After a year, Dora's time in the forest school is over.
The time has come for Dora to go it alone in the jungle. But she doesn't seem to be in a hurry to go anywhere. She doesn't understand why she has to go back into the transport crate.
Back to freedom
They walk deep into the forest,
looking for the ideal place to reintroduce her.
Now Dora has to get to know
the other animals in the forest.
Going it alone
Dora has to fend for herself.
Her new life has begun.
Chapter 5Vanishing forest
Just a stone's throw from Dora,
chainsaws are eating their way through the rainforest.
Only a small area of the rainforest is still intact.
The Indonesian rainforest is being cut down at a faster rate than almost anywhere else in the world.
Tropical wood is in demand.
But palm oil is in even greater demand.
It is produced from the fruit of oil palms.
Indonesia is the largest global producer.
Areas where rainforests once stood
have been turned into sprawling monocultures.
No palm oil for Dora
Almost every second product sold in the supermarket contains palm oil. As such, consumers play a role in determining the fate of threatened species — and the rainforest.
Two years later...
Chapter 6Life in the forest
These hills are becoming home
to more and more orangutans.
Dora hasn't been seen for a while now.
Where is Dora?
All reintroduced animals are fitted with a transmitter, which makes them easier to locate.
Curiosity soon gets the better of Dora.
She likely heard Peter a while before she appeared.
She's now eight years old and much bigger.
But she's still very trusting.
Peter and Andhani keep an eye on all of the reintroduced animals. It's considered a real success when the orangutans reproduce in the wild.
Rimbani has been living in the wild for years.
She regularly returns to the area around the station
to show off her son, Radja.
Concerns about Dora
Andhani is worried.
Dora seems listless and has lost weight.
She's even finding it hard to climb.
On the mend
A few days later,
Dora has clearly forgotten about the needle.
She seems back to her old self.
Chapter 7Problem children
Reintroduction doesn't always run
as smoothly as with Dora.
Alda is 23 years old,
pregnant and doesn't know where to go.
Life in the wild is clearly not really her thing.
She hangs in a tree all day waiting to be fed.
Win Gayo is another tragic case. He had lived in the wild for many years when he started to attack villagers on the edge of the national park.
The 20 year-old male had to be caught, and now lives in a cage near the station.
Motley monkey crew
Orangutan means forest man.
The apes in Bukit Tigapuluh come from everywhere.
Because each one has a unique past,
they are all at different stages of their development.
Still early days
Although Peter Pratje and his team have been fighting to save orangutans for almost 20 years,
it is still early days. So far, 170 animals have been reintroduced to the wild in Bukit Tigapuluh.
But it will take twice that number to create a sustainable population.
Chapter 8On the brink
Orangutans live on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. An estimated 14,000 animals are now at home on Sumatra.
Half a century ago, there were four times as many.
The last of a kind
Orangutans are on the Red List of Threatened Species. Without enough forest,
Dora and others like her don't stand a chance.
A web documentary
by Inga Sieg and Axel Warnstedt
Daniel Rosengren und Axel Warnstedt
Assistant in Indonesia:
Ahmad Bahtiazhar Rodhial Falah
With thanks to
Thank you to
Frankfurt Zoological Society (ZGF)
International Climate Initiative (IKI)
To be continued...
In five years time, Dora will be old enough
to have a baby. We'll be back to see how she's doing.